Getting a good night’s sleep is important to overall health. As we age, many factors get in the way of quality sleep. Changes in schedules, chronic pain, anxiety, depression due to isolation, and many other things contribute to disruptions in sleep patterns.
Environmental changes and medical conditions aren’t the only factors that impact sleep. Studies show that as we get older, our body’s circadian rhythm shifts forward in time causing older adults to tire in the afternoon and wake up early in the morning. It was also found that most older adults end up spending more time in the light stages of sleep, potentially resulting in waking up more often during the night and ultimately, experiencing less restful sleep.
The recommended amount of sleep for adults over the age of 65 is seven to eight hours of sleep per night, according to the National Sleep Foundation. With so many things seemingly working against a good night’s sleep, how do we prioritize good sleep as we age?
Here are a few steps older adults can take to help encourage quality sleep.
- Exercise. Moving your body is not only one of the best things that you can do for your health, but those who exercise generally fall asleep faster, stay asleep longer, and report a better quality of sleep.
- Reduce bedroom distractions. Keep the television and other electronics out of your bedroom.
- Cut out caffeine. Substances like caffeine, alcohol, and tobacco can make it more challenging to sleep. Cutting back on these things may help you get to and stay asleep.
- Develop a routine. Try to avoid sudden changes in your sleep schedule. Consider going to bed and waking up at the same time every day.
- Include relaxing activities in your routine. Activities such as reading or taking a bath help your mind and body relax and prepare you for sleep. If you cannot fall asleep within 20 minutes of going to bed, try getting out of bed and doing a quiet activity such as reading or listening to soft music. When you feel groggy, get back into bed.